Reflecting on a year of WiFi helping seafarers connect with home

Port Waratah Coal Services has been providing seafarers with free WiFi services on vessels at their Kooragang and Carrington wharf facilities for over 12 months, since October 2019.

In that time, seafarers have used more than 85 terabytes of data, which is enough to read every title of the 40 million titles available on Google Books twice!

Over the 12 months, more than 1200 vessels have used the service. The cost of the data usage service is just over $16 a day, no more than a coffee with a couple of friends, but the value to seafarers is unmeasurable.

CEO of Port Waratah, Hennie du Plooy, said the value of the project was even more important this year with COVID19 restrictions in place.

“Seafarers have been unable to come ashore since March because of COVID19 restrictions. They are feeling more disconnected from community than ever before,” said Mr du Plooy.

“Providing WiFi for use within the vessel while at Port Waratah exporting facilities is a small cost in comparison to the huge emotional benefit to seafarers, who can then connect with their families and friends online.

“Additionally, it adds more entertainment options by downloading movies, games, and music to help pass the time while at sea, which has positive outcomes for mental health and wellbeing for our seafaring community.

“It was an important project when it was first installed in October last year, but this was fully realised when the world closed off to seafarers for most of this year due to the pandemic.”

The project had its challenges trying to enable WiFi on vessels. The Port Waratah team worked to find a reliable, portable system of technology and infrastructure to support the wireless connection.

“This project has provided a blueprint for other harbour facilities to provide WiFi to vessels. I am pleased we have been able to share our experience and enhance the digital services available to connect more seafarers with home,” said Mr du Plooy.

Media: for more information, please contact Paul Chamberlin on 0419 233989

Connecting with home: seafarers onboard a vessel berthed at Port Waratah